When Convenience is No Longer Worth It

Before I moved to Montana, I was all about convenience, especially in terms of food. I loved my prepackaged, ready-to-eat, microwavable food…my baby carrots, canned soup, Stouffer’s frozen entrees, salad in a bag, and fast food. I have a tendency towards lazy, so these products were definitely worth it. And please, don’t misunderstand–these products have their place. But I chose the convenience because it was easy and I am lazy–not because of a fast-paced, action-packed lifestyle.

When I moved to Montana, my husband couldn’t believe some of my habits. He couldn’t understand why I would buy baby carrots when I could simply cut up “real ones”. Why buy frozen pizza when you could make one? Salad in a bag? Really? He’s right, of course, although he has come to realize that it is okay to use these products occasionally.

What’s crazy is that after living here for 15 years, I’ve realized that I don’t want to eat that way anymore. Part of it has to do with my friends here. This part of Montana has a substantial population of people who want to live simply, eat freshly, and exist self-sufficiently. They are outdoor enthusiasts, protectors of the environment, and overall, just well-read, intelligent people. A little bit “hippie”, a little bit “granola” and altogether awesome. I’m not quite there yet–I am still guilty of using Miracle Gro on my flowers (but not my vegetables) and wearing make-up. I occasionally throw recyclables out. But I’m working on it.

I find great satisfaction when I look at my cubby of “put-up” salsa and pickles, or when I pull spaghetti sauce I made in the fall from the freezer. I smile a little inside when I use our freezer jam. Nothing tastes better than carrots I pulled from the ground or grape tomatoes still warm from the sun. It seems silly to me to use soup out of a can when it is so easy to make (although my boys do love canned chicken noodle) The elk that Eric provided is more delicious than almost any other type of meat (except bacon). Our milk comes from the creamery down the road. When our garage is finished, I want to start raising chickens for eggs, perhaps in cooperation with our neighbors.

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I am becoming much more cognizant of the various preservatives and additives in our grocery store food, and interested in finding ways to avoid them.

I’m not perfect about this, and I don’t want to be preachy. I’m not a health nut (not that there is anything wrong with that), nor a purist–I still love my Cheez-its and Skittles, cheddar cheese popcorn and McDonald’s french fries. My boys eat Chef Boyardee Ravioli. But I find pleasure in the knowledge that I am trying to be a healthier person, and provide some healthier options for my family.

Quitting Diet Coke

So I may have finally done it…I may have finally kicked my addiction to Diet Coke.

The key, I think, was finding a suitable replacement. This was necessary because Diet Coke was pretty much the only thing I drank all day, until I switched to my evening beer. Horribly unhealthy, I know. I have trouble making myself drink water, and I dislike coffee and tea. It was always a dilemma. Also, I quit smoking a few years ago–wasn’t that good enough?

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A gift from students last year…

My husband (who drinks as much or more than I did) and I made the switch from aspartame to Splenda, but I still didn’t like being so tied to that lovely silver can filled with liquid chemicals. I have read all of the studies about the perils of diet soda, and the ones about how artificial sweeteners trick your bodies into actually craving more glucose. I wanted to quit. The question was how?

I read another study saying that one of the reasons people have trouble cutting the intake of diet soda is because they crave the effervescence. Sounded reasonable. I bought some seltzer, and drink it instead of Diet Coke. It seems to be working. I blended a bunch of fruit (strawberries, huckleberries, mango) and froze them in small portions When I want a sweet drink, I just put some in a glass with some seltzer poured over it. Lately, I haven’t even been desiring the fruit, because I can’t taste that initial bitterness that turned me off seltzer.

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Now I am just waiting for the pounds to melt off, and trying to figure out how to get through an entire class period without running to ladies room to empty my bladder (always imagining my bladder might explode like Bob Wiley thought his would). How do people manage that? Will my body ever adjust?

I’m not going to lie, though…I miss it. Anyone else found an effective way to kick Diet Crack?

Finally! History Through Literature

During my freshman year in college in Ann Arbor, I planned to be an English teacher.  It seemed a natural fit–English had always been my favorite class.  Then I took a few history courses, read the literature assigned to them and decided this was what I was meant to teach.  I switched my concentration and graduated with a BA in History and teaching certification in history and English.  My first job was in an amazing town with amazing colleagues right on Lake Michigan.  I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the career.  (Man, I miss those guys!)

I love teaching history to teenagers–and from that very first year, I knew I wanted to teach a course like one I had taken in high school:  History Through Literature.  I think literature is one of the best pathways to understanding history and I get giddy just thinking about the possibilities.

Well…to get to the point of my story, after 17 years of teaching, I just received the “greenlight” to finally teach my own History Through Literature course.   I am ridiculously excited.

I have already begun creating a template for the course.  Due to our budget constraints, I will actually be teaching the same set of kids in two periods–one will count for History credit and the other for English 11, which I can do with my dual certification.  Ideally, this would be a team-taught course, but that isn’t going to be possible.

I’ll take what I can get.

Is anyone out there teaching a course like this?  Are there any resources you have found especially helpful?

2nd Inaugural Post

Can you really have a 2nd inaugural?  I suppose the President will have a second inauguration, so I can have a 2nd inaugural blog post.

Along with thousands of others, I decided to write a blog.  I was hesitant about the whole blogging thing–is it self-serving? self-aggrandizing?  is it supposed to be?  should I be an expert at something to deserve a blog?

I do love to read others’ blogs, so while the answer may be yes to all of those questions, here I am.

The fact is, I am not an expert at anything, really.  What I wanted was a place to bounce ideas off others, to share things I’m trying, and to opine about things that matter to me, and hopefully to others as well.

I live in Montana.  Never in a thousand years (yes–I do love my hyperbole) did I ever imagine I would live anywhere other than West Michigan.  I wanted to live in West Michigan–I loved it there.  However, true love called and now I am living in a small town with Glacier National Park in my backyard.  I am a cat person, but I now am mother to a gigantic, crazy Newfoundland puppy.  I have two boys who often confound me with their humor and manner of play, as I grew up with all girls.  I have a vegetable garden.  I knit.  I’ve started cooking.  I hike.  I’ve shot a gun.   I am 2000 miles (give or take–not hyperbole) from all of my extended family members.  I attended the University of Michigan and live in an area where my chosen party loses nearly every election in our county.  The only thing that turned out somewhat as I’d planned was my career.  I am a high school social studies teacher (with a bit of English thrown in).  This is all amusing to me, because I am a planner.  I had it all mapped out, but as Burns once wrote “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.

That said, I would change nothing (except maybe to shed these last 10 stubborn pounds).  I would live nowhere else.  Don’t get me wrong–I’d still like to retire someplace warm, like South Carolina, but some how, some way, this short West Michigan girl ended up exactly where she needs to be.

What about you?  Have any of your carefully laid life plans “gang aft agley”?

Columbia Mountain